The Fray insists that Newport Beach is no Provo.

The Fray insists that Newport Beach is no Provo.

The Fray insists that Newport Beach is no Provo.

What's happening in our readers' forum.
Oct. 23 2004 2:13 PM

Get Thee to a Rectangular State

The Fray insists that Newport Beach is no Provo.

The World's Most Dangerous Idea: GeoffsPneuma brandishes the current issue of Foreign Policy with the alluring cover title, "The World's Most Dangerous Ideas." Geoff poses this question to BOTF's residents:

The essays didn't strike me as all that, but the question itself is a really interesting one. So, I pose the same question to you as the magazine poses: What do you think might be the most dangerous idea floating around the world today?

Demosthenes2 replies that…

The most dangerous idea is the notion that someone is right—because they say so—and that regardless of the evidence to the contrary or affective consequences that this need not change.

Infallibility and the belief that one is always correct—that one has made, or can make, no mistakes is the root cause of most of the troubles we see today.

The fanatic terrorists who attack us do so believing fully that they are right. Our response is to lash out, again believing we are right, regardless of how and where we do so, and the evidence that it's not working. The belief that we even understand who the enemy is or WHY they behave as they do is likewise a symptom of the disease of infallibility.

The inability to acknowledge a mistake or take into account new information or incorporate new findings that are anomalous or not in accordance with pre-existing assumptions are all the direct result of belief in one's own infallibility.

Is his diagnosis a thoughtful revelation or just squishy moral relativism? Mix it up with D2 here. And click here for former Clinton OMB director Alice Rivlin's "most dangerous idea."

Get Thee to a Rectangular State: That's what echoguy implores Richard Rushfield to do if he really wants to conduct a fair experiment like the one he cooked up for Slate ("Political Poseur: Pretending to be a Republican in blue California").

To echoguy, Los Angeles' gentrified eastside (Fraywatch's home office):BLUE…

Denton, TX: RED

Newport Beach, CA maybe overwhelmingly white and a plurality Republican, but jeeez, I've been to gay-hosted parties there! It ain't exactly the Bible Belt.

Newport Beach/Bakersfield: RED
Western Massachusetts: BLUE

In short, Newport Beach and Bakersfield aren't nearly as red as Los Feliz is blue.

Play geography-by-color with echoguy here, or find out why leetracy believes that "leftists are more aggressive and in-your-face in person," here.

Pounding of the Week: Over in Foreigners, Certain has had enough of Slate's frequent contributor, Lee Smith, who wrote on the parallels between Baathism and Osama bin Laden's radical Islamicism this week. Certain grumbles that Slate should…

Pay for George Will, if you need one-sided hackery. At least I'll get an obscure Disraeli quote in the process.

This is a silly piece from the "apples are like oranges because both grow on trees" school of meaningless essays.

Of course there are similarities between Baathism and Osama Bin Laden's Islamic fundamentalism.

There are similarities between Jerry Falwell's Christian fundamentalism and Osama Bin Laden's Islamic fundamentalism.

There are also similarities between Saddam Hussein's state capitalism and 1920's Wisconsin LaFollette Progressivism. For example, I'm pretty sure that in both cases, the state owned a large cement plant.

But the central political question is, did Osama and Saddam cooperate? Were they friends? Did Saddam give aid to Osama? Was there a realistic and immediate risk that Saddam would give Osama 1,000,000 doses of smallpox, or a suitcase nuke?

More October Surprises: Here, Fritz_Gerlich wonders if it's Fallujah:

It seems clear that U.S. forces are getting ready to assault Falujah, believed to be the biggest stronghold of insurgents in the Sunni Triangle … Would a major attack on Fallujah just before the voting be a straightforward case of wag-the-dog? Hard not to see it so. Fallujah has been allowed to remain a rebel sanctuary for almost six months. Operationally, there is no obvious reason why the U.S. command could not continue the status quo until after the election--now only 11 days away. The claim that an attack is necessary to prepare for the January elections is not much of a justification--again, partly because of the brevity of any delay, and partly because there are some questions about whether any elections can be held at all as soon as January, e.g., the lagging preparations of the U.N., which is supposed to oversee them. If U.S. commanders can show that the timing of an attack was critical to take advantage of some perishable intelligence, then maybe. That seems doubtful, however, because a Fallujah offensive has been openly talked about for about for the last three weeks; that openness, and that time frame, don't seem very consistent with a rapidly fading window of military opportunity.

Get this thread going hereKA11:05 a.m.

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Thursday, October 21, 2004

Fray Time Around: Over in The Book Club Fray, David0177 conjures up memories of growing up "an unhappy child." But…

Bob Dylan opened the door for me to escape my fundamentalist religious upbringing. Dylan was my spiritual and intellectual messiah. Imagine my confusion years later when he converted to Christianity. I didn't stand up at a concert and yell "Judas," but I felt betrayed and bewildered. But Dylan explained himself in an interview a few years later as well as he ever needs to, in my opinion. He basically said that he is just a songwriter and the significance we put on his songs are more a reflection on our mental and emotional state, not necessarily his. He said that he is not a messiah or prophet.

Ponder the Dylan legacy here with David.

Don't Ask…Do Tell! Here, IOZ comes out to his local draft board:

Hello. My name is IOZ. I am a homosexual. Don't draft me.

As a practicing homosexual, let me assure you that the antiquated belief system undergirding the US Military's anti-homosexual policies is perfectly correct in its assumptions. From the commencement of my tenure in any branch of the military, and despite my best and most concerted efforts to the contrary, I would certainly find myself affecting no outcome other than the general degradation of troop morale and unit cohesion. For instance, I would doubtlessly find myself unable to resist making gratuitous sexual advances on any and all male soldiers.

It gets considerably more sordid from there.

We're Not Amused: At least Iron_Lungfish isn't with the collective works of Trey Parker and Matt Stone:

Parker and Stone have consistently struck a pose of pseudo-populist pandering whenever venturing out into the waters of political opinion…This presents an ingenious aura of combativeness and confrontation throughout Parker and Stone's work - "Why, they attack everyone, left, right, and center!" - but in fact they attack no one. They sling around vapid, overspent stereotypes - sometimes with remarkable comic skill - and hurl a slew of gratuitous ones into the mix (are they really speaking truth to power by knocking evil dictators? Is there a large pro-dictator segment of the Comedy Central demographic I wasn't aware of?)…Smearing this over with a good layer of potty humor allows Parker and Stone to affect a sort of bad-boy pose, while neither contesting nor offering no actual ideological content that any barroom drunk would find alarming or provocative.

Now, there's nothing wrong with comedy that has no ideological point of view. There's not even anything inherently wrong with pandering comedy. But a comic pander to the masses that poses as "cutting satire that will offend everyone right and left" and will, in the end, say nothing and offend no one who isn't astonished by the use of The Terrible F-Word is not only limp and spineless - it's a hypocritical con.

Exactly. There's a difference between being candid and being revealing. Deconstruct Team America and SouthPark with IL here.

More Polling Perspective:

October 21, 2000 (for polls taken October 16-October 21, 2000)

Fox News/Opinion Dynamics  (10/18-19)                  Bush 45           Gore 42   
Gallup/CNN/USAToday (10/19/21)                            Bush 50           Gore 41
ABC News (10/19-21)                                           Bush 48           Gore 45
Newsweek (10/18-20)                                           Bush 48           Gore 41
CBS News/New York Times (10/18-21)                    Bush 46           Gore 44
Tarrance Group/Lake Snell Perry (10/16-19)              Bush 44           Gore 39
CSM/IBD/TIPP (10/19-22)                                      Bush 44           Gore 42          Reuters/MSNBC/Zogby (10/19-21)                           Bush 45           Gore 41

Chicago Invades On November 5: No. That's not a Week 9 NFL preview. Those are doodahman's fighting words, here, "[i]f it should turn out that the presidency, and the fate of our nation, is turned over to … George Bush BECAUSE OF WISCONSIN" … KA6:10 p.m.

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Tuesday, October 19, 2004

A Must Read: …from Fritz_Gerlich, who delivers an eloquent post on the toxic polarization of the country:

The only thing holding the country together is the accidental fact that we have no history, no tradition, of open revolt against constituted government. In a country with such a tradition, the shooting would start the day after the election. America is now drawing for its very survival on its historical capital--on the fact that private militias…have never existed here, as they have in so many other countries.

The very worst thing of all is that we have forgotten what one America feels like. I will be honest enough to admit that. I really don't remember.

As if the prospect of an even more divided America isn't sobering enough, Richard Hasen presents five nightmare election scenarios in his Jurisprudence piece. But Joe_JP here tells us not to be overly concerned. And Publius walks us through each of the five scenarios hereKA10:20 a.m.

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Monday, October 6, 2004

Faith: BenK takes issue with IOZ's screed against "the misapprehension that Yaweh's unhealthy need for never-ending validation is somehow related to the business of governing a civil society." BenK's response:

Certainly, the liberals would demonstrate some moral fortitude by acknowledging that they are putting forward an alternative to religion - that is, effectively, another 'secularist' religion that is incompatible with the others. This would promptly uncover a foundational misunderstanding, that the liberals' secular humanist religion can peacefully reign the public space without threatening the other religions. Soon separation of religion and state, a somewhat successful experiment while the range of religions was between liberal protestant and conservative catholic (with conservative protestant and liberal catholic as the other options), would be declared a moderate success, and retooled with a greater understanding of how religion is critical in the public sphere, such that minority religions have to give up their claims to certain aspects of life and be happy simply not being outright persecuted in society - because the other option is creeping persecution by the secularist religion.

This sparks a sharp thread in Fraywatch Fray over the question: Is secularism just another religion? An aggressive rebuttal to BenK from antifascist here:

The specious yet oft-repeated notion that secular humanisism is itself just another "religion" is basically just something that religious folk tell themselves in order to convince themselves that everyone is as childish and credulous as they are. Religious claims refer to a completely different level of reality (or, in this case, irreality) than do the claims of secular humanism; specifically, religious claims purport to convey knowledge about a supernatural, metaphysical plane of reality inhabited by immaterial spirits who nonetheless are able to intervene in the natural, physical world.

…and Demosthenes2 here:

The acknowledgment that what makes for good public policy and for good legislation—particularly in light of the unintended consequences that are inevitable when you use the ham handed mechanisms of the state—doesn't necessarily conform to simple calculations of ethics or morality is NOT the same thing as another religion!

The nonreligious population in the country seems to be organizing itself intellectually. Right now, it's inchoate; but we tend to forget — through the tireless conversation about how important faith is in American politics — that a quarter of the nation is decidedly nonreligious, and half the country doesn't regard religion as important in its life. The election seems to have ignited the former group with a sense of besiegement, and they're beginning to fight back with their own secular brand of indignation. 

Taxation Without Representation: Sanabiro represents the District in response to Andy Bowers' Swingers piece, "Minnesota: The only state to oppose Reagan flirts with conservatism." Sanabiro writes:

Slate, slate, slate. I know it's not the point, but it really is insulting. The District of Columbia is used to getting the shaft. Taxed federally like the states but unlike colonies and territories; denied representation in the Senate and voting power in the House; and even denied (by congress's budget) a state fair, DC is not treated like the center of democracy that it is. But one thing we do get is electoral votes. A whopping 3. And each and every one of them went to Walter Mondale in 1984. So saying, "Minnesota: The only state to oppose Reagan," hurts. It truly smarts, especially since the constituents of Slate.com located in the District may rival in number the constituents of Minnesota.

Imagine the ramifications on the electoral map if Virginia annexed the District … KA8:20 p.m.

Throw Out the Constitution:  IOZ's October surprise:

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No, really, I mean it.

Thinking about the lunatic sniping over much-benighted Mary Cheney ... I've found myself pondering the obvious insanity of a country so debased and intellectually inferior that it considers re-enshrining some variety of the 3/5 clause in its foundational document less morally objectionable than mentioning a much-known fact. This, in turn, has led me into the depths of intellect of the American political left, which is rather like wading into the deep end of the same baby pool.

So before I get to the point, let me hurl a little invective at those claiming the mantle of American leftism, or liberalism, or whatever they want to call it. The American left is a sniveling, nuancing, preening, narcissistic bunch of mental peons without the personal, political, or intellectual bravery to defend the core convictions underlying their philosophy. "Oh no!" they cry, hearing themselves described as secular humanists. God, Jesus, Mohammed, and Larry King forbid that some vestigial creationist pimping his economic well-being to conservatives so that the gays don't rape his children be offended by the perfectly reasonable belief that public religion is incompatible with political liberty. The left has allowed itself to be steamrolled into acknowledging the counterfactual claim that Washington, Jefferson, and the rest of the Freemasons who founded America were, in fact, good church-goin' fellows who just wanted to prevent a "State Religion." Fuck that shit, as my younger brother would say. Washington, Jefferson, and the rest of those madmen were busy kissing each others' Kundalinis like a bunch of Templars and dreaming up some manner of overthrowing the parochial madman god of Christianity with the Great Architect of the Universe.

No. Lord, Mary, Joseph, Confucious forbid someone say, "We don't want the Ten Commandments in our court rooms because it lends credence to the misapprehension that Yaweh's unhealthy need for never-ending validation is somehow related to the business of governing a civil society." No, because John Kerry is just as religious as the rest of us. He's a good Catholic! He LOVES the Vatican. Fuck you, John Kerry, and fuck that den of iniquity that scratches its balding, senile, scabrous head at the sexually-repressed minions it let loose upon the children of America. If just once John Kerry stood up to some goddamn bishop who wants to deny him communion and say, "Hey father, you can keep the Body of Christ out of my mouth, but as soon as I'm president I'm going to take the boy dick out of yours, and then I'm going to have my Justice Department and the IRS come down on your tax-exempt status like the Lord God himself coming down on Pharaoh," then perhaps I'd give him my vote.

…This supposedly sacred document is, in fact, an ad hoc work designed to rectify problems in the previous articles of confederation and expected (as Jefferson and Franklin made quite, quite clear) to last no more than a generation. Now, unfortunately, we've enshrined it and reified it and, since we're a mostly illiterate culture, misread it into oblivion. The left's problem isn't that Antonin Scalia is wrong; it's that he's fucking right. It's that the left, by accepting the legitimacy of the constitution as a sacred and nearly unalterable document, accedes to the power of those, like Mr. Scalia, who believe that what worked in 1789 will work today. Clearly it won't. But by Odin, Thor, Zeus, and Hermes, don't let that secret out. The sixties, as we're so often reminded, are over, and therefore so is any thought of actual revolution. The machinery of democracy, we're told, will bump along. Mary Cheney will eventually be just fine. Iraq, eventually, will be just fine. And nevermind that identity chip under the skin of your right hand. It'll be fine. Nevermind those troops on the corner. Didn't ya hear? There's turarists afoot. But that, too, will be fine. Fine, fine, we're all fine.

The world, meanwhile, looks increasingly askance at the funny people with the big guns running about spouting messianic nonsense about the spread of liberty and freedom and paypal and ATM machines and cell phones and God and Jesus and Regis and Kathy and Survivor and Friends and the 5 o'clock dinner and the Atkins diet. They will inevitably wonder, "Why are we funding these guys?" They will inevitably say, "Why are so few allowed to run roughshod over so many?" They will eventually show us what it means to be at the receiving end of another's prerogatives. And Lord God Jesus Christ Mary Joseph Moses a-mighty, neither George Bush nor Dick Cheney's tawdry daughter will be able to do shit to protect us when the IOUs begin to roll the fuck in.

Respond to IOZ here.

Polling Perspective:

October 18, 2000 (for polls reporting results October 11-October 18, 2000)

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Gallup/CNN/USAToday (10/16-18)                 Bush 49            Gore 39
ABC News (10/12-15, 17)                            Bush 48            Gore 43
CNN/Time (10/12-13)                                 Bush 48            Gore 43
NBC News/Wall Street Journal (10/13-10/15)  Bush 48            Gore 42
Newsweek (10/12-13)                                Bush 45            Gore 43
ICR (10/11-15)                                         Bush 42            Gore 39
Tarrance Group/Lake Snell Perry (10/15-18)   Bush 44            Gore 40
CSM/IBD/TIPP (10/13-15)                           Bush 44            Gore 42           Reuters/MSNBC/Zogby (10/16-18)               Bush 44            Gore 43

CBS News hadn't polled since October 6-9, though their most recent number — as of the morning of October 18, 2000 — had the race tied at 44% … KA11:50 a.m.

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Thursday, October 14, 2004

What happened in Tempe?  

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Where's the Threshold? Here, HLS_2003 asks, "Bush improved, but is it a win?"

Frankly, Bush is plain better on domestic issues than national security issues. This is because, although Bush could tell a reasonable story about the Iraq invasion ... Bush generally doesn't tell this story, and in fact can't tell it without deviating from his "official script." This is unfortunate, and due in large part to his inability to admit his original mistakes. Regardless, at this point, national security = Iraq and Iraq = Bush confusion. And when Bush looks confused, boy, he really looks confused. On domestic policies, on the other hand, Bush has stayed pretty consistent, and he has better data to work with. Bush's "ownership society" push in his convention acceptance speech seemed to resonate pretty well with voters, and is a real plus in terms of unifying his overall approach. He does well to keep hitting that. Kerry's Social Security answer will hurt him, I'm thinking, because it indicates that he has no new ideas, and hasn't even recycled the old ones very convincingly (Hillarycare II included). Call me crazy, but I think Bush's best bet is to stay focused on domestic issues for as much of the remaining campaign as possible. I thought it worked well for him in this debate, and I expect it will continue that way. You don't ignore the War on Terror, of course, but I think its usefulness as a campaign issue is beginning to wane.

Bottom line: to my eye, Bush went up—way up—from debate #2. A "win" or "loss" depends on your debate 2 starting benchmark. I had Bush losing big in debate #2, so I would call this a tie. But from where I was standing both the style and substance were surprisingly improved for Bush, and Kerry a bit weaker.

Is HLS correct?  Has home-court advantage flipped in this campaign, with Kerry stronger on Iraq and Bush making strides domestically? Discuss it with HLS here.

Why Bush Lost: From Thrasymachus here:

The strangest thing about this debate, bar none, was the way Bush answered any and all questions he hadn't been prepped for by talking about education. The strangest moment came when he answered a question about the advisability of raising the minimum wage with a disjointed, staggering discourse about Pell grants and the "fundamental right of all Americans to read." (Good to know; he should try it sometime). That's going to cost him dear. ...

my crystal ball predicts that he's really, truly, deeply going to come to regret denying the "I don't think much about Osama" quote. The news networks had the video of him saying exactly what he said he didn't say ready to roll by the end of the debate, and it's anything but flattering. Coming soon to a swing state broadcast outlet near you.

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Bush Did OK: That's GeoffsPneuma's take here. Geoff has an interesting perspective on "Kerry's contesting the Catholic vote":

Kerry's contesting the Catholic vote. And quite frankly, I don't think Bush OR Rove have fully appreciated the difference between a traditionalist Catholic and a traditionalist evangelical Protestant. Bush's rhetoric seems custom-designed to alienate conservative Catholics. We'll know in less than a month whether I'm right on that, but my guess is that Kerry is going to crush Bush in the Catholic vote. Most Catholics know how difficult it is to square the religious positions of the Catholic Church with the civic obligations of an American citizen. Bush is unwarrantedly disdainful of that kind of "nuance." I can't say what a WASP in Atlanta will hear in that debate ... but I suspect a Catholic in Atlanta is going to have second thoughts about Bush.

Breaking It Down with Locdog: The morning after, locdog takes a look at the internals and analyzes some of the finer points. In the final locdog analysis:

i think that while kerry won the debate, he also lost the election. look, kerry isn't going to defeat bush on iraq, terror, or national security. he just isn't. every poll i know of gives some combination of these three as the key issues in this election, followed by the economy, healthcare, education, etc. kerry's strength lies in what for this election will be secondary issues, which means he needed to be able to win on things like the economy by a lot more than five points. he needed to not only dominate bush on these issues, but to shift the entire focus of the campaigns to the domestic front, where (theoretically) he could put bush on the defensive. that's a tall order, one that perhaps no democrat but bill clinton could have pulled off. kerry is no bill clinton.

Take Me Out to the Ballgame: Overnight ratings haven't been broken down by gender, but MarySz offers up an interesting point in Ballot Box Fray:

"Debating coaches from Harvard or Yale will say that Kerry won, but the average working men are all going to look at the screen and say I relate more to that George Bush guy."—Joe Scarborough. MSBNC.

Bad news Joe,—all the working men were watching the ball game last night. This debate was intended to woo women voters. Are average working women going to look at the screen and say they relate more to Bush?

Consistency vs. Agility: One of the ways Kerry has been able to beat the flip-flop rap in recent weeks has been his steady, almost programmatically consistent performance in the three debates. The_Bell, here:

What surprised me was how very much Kerry did the same thing over the course of these three debates. Obviously the polls have reflected that this has helped him define himself better than his reputation for long, affected speeches. If Republicans want to paint him as inconsistent, he certainly did not show it during these debates. However, much like his criticisms of the President, I think that dedication to consistency sometimes cost Kerry in flexibility to respond more effectively and directly to various Bush charges, misstatements, weaknesses, and other openings.

"Burn-Out Ohio": Apparently, the Cleveland Plain Dealer agrees with Publius' suggestion

Mary, Mary? Quite Contrary: Much has been made this morning about John Kerry's mentioning Mary Cheney in his response to the "is homosexuality a choice" question (the mere posing of the question is offensive in the eyes of Fraywatch, but he'll reserve that critique for the queer theorists in his well-appointed salon). Kerry did not out Cheney. Unlike Alan Keyes, he did not call into question Mary Cheney's moral character. The only thing Kerry sought to do was humanize an issue which is being discussed in alarmingly abstract terms. In fact, the vice president has alluded to his daughter on numerous occasions in public statements and appearances.

So what about Kerry's remarks so offended the Cheney clan? Had the president, when speaking about immigration, referenced Teresa Heinz Kerry's experience in a positive or neutral light, would that have been inappropriate? Is Mary Cheney's homosexuality some sort of affliction? A verboten family tragedy like the death of John Edwards' son? The only "cheap and tawdry political trick" performed Wednesday night was the one turned by the Cheney parental units. It was they who used their daughter's sexuality as a weapon against John Kerry's sympathetic (and very general) remark. If only Dick and Lynne were so indignant when their daughter was legitimately under attack by an administration willing to write gays and lesbians out of the nation's founding document. Selective indignation has never been so crass … KA9:55 a.m.